IN the run-up to the festive season we’ve been bombarded everywhere with advice, encouragement and down-right commercial pressure to consume. At the same time, the same media sounded warning bells galore.

The Daily Mirror, “With only weeks to go until the big day, it's a good idea to snap up your boozy presents soon, and we've rounded up some of the best alcoholic gifts below.” Same time The Independent warned, “Christmas binge drinking increases risk of alcohol dependence, expert warns.” Trying to have it both ways, the Daily Mail explained in “The sobering truth about drinking at Christmas”: “Don't get me wrong, I don't want to end the tradition of drinking at this time of year. All the same, I think it's getting out of hand.”

Where do you draw the line? Is it a new problem? In 1794 the poet William Blake penned the following lines:Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold, But the Ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm; But if at the Church they would give us some Ale. And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale; We'd sing and we'd pray, all the live-long day; Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.

It is easy to offer sanctimonious advice or appear a spoilsport. Much more difficult to discern the right balance. Where does the right balance lie?

Quakers are lucky that they can draw on Quaker wisdom past and present in “Quaker Faith & Practice” which offers good, practical advice: “The world is a dark enough place still for too many. It can ill spare even the poorest rushlight candle of cheerfulness or the smallest fire of fellowship. We must not put out the glimmer of light which shines for so many still today through the pub windows, unless we can put a better in its place. We need the light of a brighter cheerfulness, and the glow of a warmer fellowship (Ch. 20: 20.39).” I’ll drink to that!

Wilf Fenten, Clerk to Airton Quaker Meeting